Monday, 7 January 2008

All & Nothing

What the bejezus is it then - this 'spirituality'? Everything and nothing I suppose - meaning and purpose, God and infinity or nothing but the world and our connection to the soil? Perhaps it's all things to all men then? In the eye of the beholder, for this word will mean something completely different to you than it does to me.

If the value of a term can be measured by its effectiveness to communicate an idea, then 'spirituality' is an old banger - inefficient and leaky. Invoking the word correctly would require a myriad contexts for it to be set within to make any sense at all. It seems like an awful waste of energy.

Yet still the word fascinates me, for I see enough commonalities in spiritual narratives to make me think there is some small value in the term. It's in these commonalities that we might make sense of the concept and give it a meaning that may actually be of some use. Then perhaps, we can loose the word and replace it with something more useful.

Let me give you my own personal definition for a start, and we'll see if it rings any bells;

For me, spirituality is nothing more than the lived experience; That pure, unadulterated lived experience that life seems to get in the way of. Paradoxically, living day to day diverts my attention away from living. Or rather, experiencing life in all its richness is impossible if I think to little or too much about it.

And therein lies the dichotomy; If we live life at full steam, then we don't experience it, yet, if we make the effort to savor what we're experiencing then we become the outside observer - just looking in on ourselves experiencing life.

Things become so easily absurd.

So it's in this fine balance that I find my 'spirituality'.

I planned to give some concrete examples of this, but bedtime is upon me suddenly and I find myself yawning.

Tomorrow perhaps...

17 comments:

metalkpretty said...
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the queen said...

Oh, I am so conventional - To me it means the urge to ally yourself with the "good" in the universe. And again, as metalkpretty says - nothing to do with God, just with "good" - the best in human nature, not assigned morals.

Murph said...

I don't know how to define 'spirituality', but sometimes when I read the news, I can't help but think we're all living in Xibalba.

Christy Lenzi said...

>>if we make the effort to savor what we're experiencing then we become the outside observer - just looking in on ourselves experiencing life.<<

Why must this be the case? I think it's possible to savor experiences without creating the distance you describe. I think it's a goal worth striving for, anyway.

I've always associated the word spirituality with the word spirit--a part of the human thought to perpetually exist apart from the body with an ability to connect with the divine. I have doubts that we have spirits, so I rarely use the word "spirituality," which I take to mean fostering things associated with our spirits.

jamon said...

Metalkpretty: That's what I mean - it takes so many words to describe what one means. Mind, that experience you describe when snowboarding was one of my examples - long distance running (after about 6 miles), I get the very same feeling.

You're so lucky having somewhere like that to go boarding - I've tried it once (been skiing a few times) and loved it!

jamon said...

Queen - This fascinates me, 'cos I know what you mean about the urge to ally yourself with the 'good in the universe'.

But if the universe is arbitrary and pointless, then surely it's neither good nor bad?

jamon said...

Christy: Of course it's possible - I guess that's the balancing act I alluded to. Just, I'm a bit wobbly ;)

BTW - I'm visiting London bro this weekend so will remind him he's to reccomend places to visit.

jamon said...

Murph: Xibalba doesn't sound the place to spend yer holidays in.

the queen said...

"But if the universe is arbitrary and pointless, then surely it's neither good nor bad?"

So then, you feel that what we consider the good in the universe is just our re-interpretation of the pointlessness?

If so, then I change my statement to "Align ourselves with the good in humanity." Surely you think human behavior can be divided into good vs bad. Therefore, my search for spirituality becomes "I will try not to be an ass," which seems much more doable. I like that better!

jamon said...

Queen - In a way I think we can differentiate between Good & Bad, though I don't think there's really an absolute quality of good / bad. Rather it's all relative - some things are more good / bad than others.

That's what gets me about orgsanised religion - in that it ascribes absolutes to something that's simply relative value judgements.

I think...

stuart said...

at first glance I immediately thought that Christy's comment was spot on - "spirit--a part of the human thought to perpetually exist apart from the body with an ability to connect with the divine. I have doubts that we have spirits, so I rarely use the word "spirituality,""

I also intensely dislike the word because of those connotations - however, it would seem that we both share the same misconception about spirit, and it is a misconception driven by Christianity and its never ending quest to control people. You see, what Christy describes as "thought to perpetually exist apart from the body with an ability to connect with the divine." is not 'spirit', it is the Soul, two seperate and different components of humanity that Christianity has striven to meld into one.

The spirit is actually something that grows with us, is defined by our actions and thoughts and, ultimately, dies with us. It has nothing to do with God or religion and our spirit will not live on for eternity in either heaven or hell.

Which is where the Christian missionaries stick their big sensible shoes in. Lots of native people from all the ancient areas of the world believe in the spirit. The missionaries who first (and here i stumble to find a suitable phrase), erm, they would say 'saved', erm.... ah!, perverted these cultures, brought with them the idea of a 'Soul' which is going to go up or down when we die, depending on how well we bribe the earthly officials.

What better way to ensure compliance from the locals than by confusing their own idea of spirit with the idea of soul, thereby taking something that is unique to each person and highly valued, and moulding it into a generic shape, defined by the church, using the threat of eternal damnation (and quite often real physical torture) to achieve their goals.

So as some sort of conclusion to this meandering comment, I now see that metalkpretty and Jamon are both right to think of spirituality when doing something (boarding - running - for me it is biking) that gives them time to reflect upon their surroundings and their place within those surroundings. It is such reflections that define us as human beings. And that, i think, is what spirituality is about.

jamon said...

Thanks for the comment Stu - I'd not thought so clearly about the disctinction between spirit and soul. Now that you've said it - it makes perfect sense.

Cheers Bud ;)

Christy Lenzi said...

I think of spirit and soul being close to the same idea. But it's not just a Christian idea. The Greeks thought this way. The Mesopotamians also imagined a ghost inside, carried by the body. They believed the spririts (souls, ghosts) were given by the gods.

Of course, we use "spirit" and "spirituality" to mean other things--as you say--we can use it to mean something within us that "feels" other than the body, that feels connected to something greater than ourselves. To me, your use of the word seems more metaphorical--and I like it.

metalkpretty said...
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Murph said...

Typically, I shy away from arguing such points, that is, in defining what is a spirit, what is a soul, etc. Growing up, I was taught the soul is the whole of a life, from beginning to end in time, the physical, emotional and mental, and the spiritual aspects of living. In that, the body is a vessel for the spirit, which is all the energies which pass into and out from the soul, which isn't just some mystical ideal, but also the energies you'd read about in a physics text book. Somewhere in history, science began to explain away all these things, rendering 'spirituality' to some kind of undefined thing, or something people of faith will continue to claim exists, even if it cannot be found in a laboratory. It's about ownership, in a way -- to name it or to define it is to own it, and who really wants the core of their essence to be defined by anyone?

Christy Lenzi said...

>>...to name it or to define it is to own it, and who really wants the core of their essence to be defined by anyone?<<

Good point.

stuart said...

Murph, I think you have managed to put my exact reasoning into a much more succinct form, thankyou.